• Juneteenth 2022 badge
  • Celebrate Black Music badge

Being A Dad Means Something Different For Every Father & Son, And These Artists Are Offering Their Perspectives

"Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father." —Barack Obama

Being a biological father and being a dad are two different things, and they don't always go hand in hand. These artists explore the hard work of parenting, the scars absent parents can leave, and the healing power of love.

DISCLAIMER: Not every artwork is shown, though clicking on each link will bring you to the piece.

1. If Given the Chance by AJ Troup (Film)

AJ Troup stands in front of tile, wearing all white and staring into the camera

2. D.a.D. by Pierce Freelon (Album)

Pierce Freelon photographed in black and white, wearing a dashiki and smiling

"Daddy Daughter Day" feat. J Gunn (Official Music Video)

View this video on YouTube


3. "Dismantling the Narrative of Black Fatherhood" by Dwayne Curry (Spoken Word Poem)

View this video on YouTube

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Dwayne Curry is a program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The RWJF promotes equal healthcare for all, and Curry has led numerous programs in nutrition and education. Tantamount to wellness is familial health, such as the stereotype of the "absent Black father." In this spoken word, Curry illustrates the importance of redefining what it means to be a Black dad by explaining why he tells his kids he loves them so often.

Also by Curry: "Reclaiming the Narrative of Black Fatherhood" (Article)

When I asked Curry his thoughts on Black fatherhood, he said:

"Being a father is the most important role that I will ever have. I am privileged to help shape and guide the lives of children who may be our future leaders, innovators, and heroes. Being a Black father adds on additional layers to how I navigate through life. Media, television, and popular music perpetuate the idea that Black fathers are not present in their children's lives, and that is simply not true. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Black fathers were the most involved with children no matter if they lived with them or not. Unfortunately, inaccurate narratives continue to influence how society views and values Black fathers. I am driven to counteract these narratives. Every soccer game I take my son to play in, every dance recital I record of my daughter, and every doctor's visit I take my children to, I am blessed to know that my children see me for who I am, a loving father, and not who society portrays me to be."

4. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (Animation)

View this video on YouTube

Sony Pictures Animation

2020 Oscar-winner for Best Animated Short Film, Hair Love tells the moving story of a father helping his daughter do her hair. While they initially struggle, they get help from a vlogger (voiced by Issa Rae). And in case you haven't seen the short yet, I won't spoil the ending.

5. Black Fatherhood by Peniel Enchill (Art)

6. Father Figure - Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood by Zun Lee (Film/Photography)

Zun Lee

Zun Lee lived most of his life believing he was the son of two Korean immigrants. In his late 30s, he discovered that his dad was a Black man he's never met. Lee has photographed many aspects of Black culture, and in Father Figure, he hones in on the quiet moments of being a dad that makes the experience so special.

"By showing quiet moments that are often deemed un-newsworthy, I hope this work can help question preconceived notions and present a broader context of Black fatherhood. Perhaps it can serve as a counter-narrative to humanize Black men as present and competent fathers in a media climate that largely continues to deny this possibility." —Zun Lee, Vice

7. The Caregivers II by Charles Bibbs (Art)

View this video on YouTube

Detroit Public TV

Featuring Bibbs' characteristic style, The Caregivers II features an imposing father figure holding his two children. Though Bibbs gives the father a massive frame and bulging muscles, the man's hands remain open and gentle. The feeling of protection and strength shines through with each line.

8. When I Become Dad by Cbabi Bayoc (Children's Book)

The cover of "When I Become Dad," featuring a child holding onto their father's leg

9. "This Black Dad Breaks Down How Fatherhood Changed His Life" by Farda Eon (Article)

Clip art of a family walking together, the child riding a toy bike

10. The Future by WAK (Art)

View this video on YouTube


A child sits on their father's shoulders as they walk across the earth, blue skies hanging overhead. The hard ground, broad shoulders of the father, and clouds that look more like mountains, surround the delicate child who almost seems to be glowing. As with Bibbs' The Caregivers II, WAK chooses to make the father's hands tender yet firm as they support the child.

11. "Father Time" by Kendrick Lamar (Song)

View this video on YouTube

Top Dawg Entertainment

"Father Time" is a song about Kendrick's issues with his dad, but it winds up being more about how we cope with childhood trauma. As much as Kendrick talks about his own upbringing, he also examines how he turned out, what he still struggles with, and what he values in his partners. Whether he's rapping about his struggle to commit, pride in his work ethic, or desire to give the women in his life "a break," that album cover of Kendrick's son, partner (Whitney Alford), and possibly their second child stays at the forefront of our minds.

12. A Gift From God by Fred Mathews (Art)

13. The Black Fatherhood Project by Jordan Thierry (Film)

Video Project

The Black Fatherhood Project examines the history behind the African American family unit and how it functions in today's society. Thierry interviews people who did not know their father, who are trying to become fathers themselves, whose marriage ended before they had a chance to become a dad, and more. Above all, this film underscores the importance a dad or father figure can have in a child's life.

14. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Book)

Ta-Nehisi Coates photographed in black and white

15. Our Father by Ahmad Asaad (Film)

Lens End Media

Ahmad Asaad spends most of Our Father's five-minute runtime showing the positive effects of good parenting. A father plays with his son, falls asleep next to him while watching TV and eating snacks, and we see the subtle traits that have passed from one generation to the next. Although the film ultimately takes a turn when the father is arrested, Asaad ends Our Father with a report from the CDC that found that Black fathers are more present to their children than any other race. Asaad chooses to feature this study rather than let the arrest dominate the film, reminding us that nothing can tarnish a good role model.

On a side note, that CDC report is truly incredible. It found that Black fathers are most likely to:

-Bathe, dress, diaper, or help their children use the toilet every day

-Help their kids with homework

-Help children who are not their kids with homework

-Talk to their children about their day

-Take their children to and from activities every day

16. “Black Fathers Matter” by GQueTv (Song)

View this video on YouTube

Tha Get Em Company

GQueTv ruminates on the number of families who are not lucky enough to have a father figure while assuring himself and his children that he will remain present. He employs clips of Barack Obama speaking on the same subject, the song ending with the former president saying that those "AWOL" fathers were "acting like boys instead of men."

This is what Black fatherhood means to GQueTv:

"Black Fatherhood means everything to me, especially being on both sides of the spectrum as a son and a father. From a broad perspective, the Black father is painted as an absent one when in reality there are more active fathers than there are absent in the Black community. When I created the 'Black Fathers Matter' song I was writing from the perspective of my own experiences and my goal was and still is to encourage those fathers who have been absent to step up to the plate. It is our responsibility to raise our own because these kids didn't ask to be here. In my personal life, I was blessed to have a few male figures in my life from my father, my grandfathers, as well as my bonus father by marriage. I would be showered with guidance from all of the men in my life but I would notice through some of my friends that they didn't get the same experiences I did because their fathers weren't around. The older I get the more I appreciate and preach the importance of the Black Father and fathers period."

17. Father Noir: Celebrating Black Fatherhood by Tommy Oliver (Film)

View this video on YouTube

Father Noir

In this short film, Tommy Oliver — the filmmaker and artist behind HBO's 40 Years a Prisoner — asks several fathers what being a dad has meant to them. The title is certainly fitting because this project feels like a celebration more than anything. Intercut with footage of each family, we see the mundane, profound, and everyday moments that make being a father so special.

Some standout quotes:

"A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children. It's not just money, but ways of being."

"When they become adults, I want them to say, 'There was never a moment where I didn't feel love from my dad.'"

"As I grew up, I realized that I was going to do whatever I could to be the dad that I never had."

"When she took her first breath, a switch inside me clicked. I heard it and I felt it resonate, and that switch was: 'Whatever you do, everything you do is for this person.'"

18. In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall by Various Authors (Collected Poetry)

The cover of "In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, showing artwork of a father holding his children

19. Black Boy, Black Boy by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond (coming August 9th, 2022)

The cover of the picture book Black Boy, Black Boy, illustrated by Ken Daley

20. Fatherhood as Described by Paul Beatty* by Rashid Johnson (Art)

Rashid Johnson standing in front of hanging string at an art event

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Make sure you head here for more of our Juneteenth coverage!